CTA union leader supports deploying National Guard on Chicago transit system

Chicago police officers at a CTA train station in February 2020. (Chicago Police Department)

By Glenn Minnis

(The Center Square) – Only days after one passenger shot and killed another aboard a West Side bus filled with other riders, Chicago Transit Authority union leader Keith Hill says he’s now open to seeing the Illinois National Guard provide security for the long-troubled system.

“Since 2017, my call has been for extra security, a presence on the transit system,” Hill told The Center Square. “From a worker standpoint, the workers need to feel safe. When a person rides the system, they should feel safe getting from point A to point B.”

Late Tuesday night, a 53-year-old man began waving a knife around while riding a CTA bus in the 4400 block of West Division, according to CPD. Another passenger pulled out a gun, shot the man, and fled before police arrived.

Now, Hill, head of Amalgamated Transit Union 241, says he envisions a plan similar to the one put in place earlier this month by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul: Teams of guard members are stationed at different locations across the city, conducting bag checks for weapons as part of a security detail.

“We have a world-class transit system, and the only way people are going to realize that is if they feel safe enough to take this,” Hill said, stressing that the added security would be in addition to the teams of mass transit officers and private security guards already in place.

“The situation and circumstances have gotten worse over the last year,” he said. “The crimes that we’re seeing on the system, we didn’t see before COVID. We didn’t see this many weapons being brought on the system. We didn’t see people being robbed.”

Hill adds he would also like to see Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. JB Pritzker become more involved in helping passengers feel safe.

“The only way you’re going to understand the problem is to have us educate you on what the problem is, how to address the problem,” he said. “You can’t go into a fight not knowing what you’re fighting.”

While not advocating for over-policing, Hill said there needs to be a focus on public safety.

“I’m just calling for a presence,” Hill said. They could be calling for this presence throughout the city because right now, the city is dealing with a very bad rash of crime.”

The Chicago Police Department claims that crime on the CTA in February was 16% lower than the same month last year.

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